Establishing Channels of Communication and Long-Term Relationships

 

Will Reed

Former CRS Mediator, Denver Office


[Full Interview]

Question:
In the situations that you're describing now, in the minority groups and the mainstream groups, were you ever able to increase the trust levels between the two? You describe a situation where the establishment believes that all members of this minority community are dumb. Were you ever able to reverse that?

Answer:
I'm so glad you asked me that question. Because if you do a little research even today, 1999, you'll find that as a result of the mediation programs all around the region, activities are going on that are demonstrating that thing right now. Let me give you an example. The Blue Sky Interaction Agency, Indian Action Council. Guess who the chairman was for years? The police chief. And it was the police chief simply because of the fact that he began to fall right into things and the trust level was developed to the degree that they elected him the first president of the group. Now this group was a result of a mediation. There was a mediation between city officials, community activists, and community leaders. After the mediation, they agreed they needed some way to keep channels of communication open. Before then, the city of Big Sky had never had a mechanism by which the channels of communication would remain open between the Indians and the city administration. So what do you do? They decided that they needed some kind of organization that will address these issues and keep communication open by meeting periodically with city officials and community leaders. This was a proposal. Somebody said, "Well then. What do you call this group?" "Well, we don't know what we'll call it, but it's a good idea that we come together monthly and sit down and discuss these issues that will keep us from becoming hostile toward one another. We'll call it the Blue Sky Indian Action Council." Guess how long that's been in existence? Twenty five years. And it keeps the door and channels of communication open. That was a result of the mediation session.

Question:
Was that typical of most of the situations you were involved in?

Answer:
Put it this way. That was one of my methods of operation that I went out for. Even though I was attempting to mediate something, I had an agenda myself. And one aspect of that agenda was to try to develop mechanisms, or suggest developing a mechanism within the mediation sessions that will speak to the issue of communication, keeping channels open at all times. And how are you going to do that when you start talking about police brutality? You want to look at doing that. When you start taking about better compliance with city laws or ordinances. When you want to start talking about better garbage collection in a minority community or anyplace else, what better mechanism could you have, or what better organization could you have where police, social workers, school officials and others are coming together with minority leadership once a month instead of letting a crisis develop?